It is surprising that Bovec-Kanin, the only Slovenian ski resort that comes close to being classed as snow sure, is but a few years from its current cableway apparatus effectively being branded obsolete. Without intervention from the north western frontier town’s municipality the advent of 2022 will be marked by the effective cessation of Mount Kanin’s eponymous lift, once more plunging Bovec into the kind of financial uncertainty reserved for business models that place all of one’s eggs in a single basket.
Kanin, or to be exact Bovec, have been here before. The disastrous collapse to earth of several of its gondola’s carriages, fortunately empty at the time, precipitated an immediate halt to operations that grounded winter sports on the Slovenian side of the mountain for several years. Those who still vacationed in Bovec were each morning bussed to Sella Nevea, the established resort servicing Kanin’s Italian aspect, where the majority of tourist euros(€) were spent. Bovec’s cableway was only reactivated on receipt of a state bailout, a controversial move seen by rival Slovenian resorts as an anti-competitive move that failed to recognize their own individual plights. It must though be reiterated that Kanin’s altitude and geographic situation does add a compelling narrative for receiving special treatment and reflects the unique economic driver that a fully operational cableway provides the region. If state assistance was afforded to all of Slovenia’s ski resorts, many of which that sit at modest altitudes on what is regarded as the sunny, and often milder side of the Alps, there would undoubtedly be accusations of good money being thrown after bad, with little in tangible returns from such an investment programme. Bovec was therefore a worthy recipient of a leg up from central government, whilst tacitly being left in no doubt that there was unlikely to be a repeat in the future should the begging bowl once more be proffered.
For Kanin’s potential to be fully realized it needs a level of investment which cannot solely be generated by private or public funds, or from the proceeds reaped from what is admittedly modest patronage.(This, remember, is Slovenia, not Austria). The latter also rules out borrowing against actual and projected footfall: it is moot to suggest that they, the customers, will only come even once it is built. It is therefore from the European Union(EU) where the majority of the €52 million is sought, with as little as 25% to be funded by the municipality and the securing of loans.
The European Union isn’t in the habit of handing out grants to in effect underpin tourism projects. As with state intervention in such cases accusations of corruption, favouritism, and fostering an atmosphere of anti-competitiveness are tags the oft-derided EU can do without, but some creatively-worded application documents can nevertheless bear the intended fruit. There would therefore only be a propitious outcome from Bovec’s blandishments if an alternative spin can be added to a submission that otherwise would fail to clear the first hurdle.
Predicated on linking Bovec with Sella Nevea, instead of existing as two non-contiguous entities sharing a mountain but little else, in a spirit of cross-border cooperation and unity is the approach that will not only get a hearing by the EU, but in all likelihood bring about the desired outcome. This, after all, would be a flagship success story of a constituent part of the former Yugoslavia linking up with one of Europe’s big boys, highlighting the positives of membership within a trading bloc that the UK are soon to leave, whilst from which the newly-named North Macedonia are to benefit now Greece have removed their veto to Skopje coming to the party.
From an environmental perspective I am not against an upgrade of operations on the Slovenian side of Kanin, although this would have to involve a dramatic enhancement within the current footprint of operations, instead of an exercise in further aesthetic indifference which is frustratingly evident at altitude when not covered by its winter coat. Aside from Vogel above Bohinj Bovec-Kanin could though represent the last bastion for Slovenian winter-sports enthusiasts in the face of Climate Change’s inexorable march. I am though concerned that wild projections of future patronage, figures themselves that will go a long way to convince the EU to agree to fund three quarters of the project, are grossly exaggerated and more aspirational than realistic. A lack of snow of course can scupper the best laid plans, although a snow-making capability already in situ enables the production of ersatz conditions when temperatures are sufficiently low.
Bovec needs a thriving ski scene for it and its wider area to prosper, although summertime hiking and climbing opportunities present within Slovenia’s northwest are hardly aided by operations of its cableway during the warmer months that can at best be described as part-time. For the project to be realistic there will need to be greater investment in Bovec’s overnight accommodation, although should the upper end of projected footfall be realized there is a danger of the area being swamped, over-burdened and ultimately compromised. The linking of resorts – and in this case countries – is old hat in Austria and has time and again been justified by synergies of cooperation and greater choice under one ski/lift pass – a scenario that in geographically restricted Slovenia has never before now been an option.
The irony of the as of yet unknown effects from a prevailing wind of change set to blow through a winter sports sector waiting nervously for Global Warming to consistently show its worst, will not be lost on those reading the technical specification of Bovec’s submission document. Although to the best of my knowledge a cause of the 2013 descent of several gondola carriages to earth has never been established, rumours have persisted that a short but intense period of high winds was the culprit; a meteorological scenario that modern cableways must be able to withstand. It is, after all, hardly unheard of for alpine weather to change in an instant – both forecast or otherwise. Without doubt, a declaration that the proposed cableway upgrade will possess greater wind-resistant properties is an insinuated nod to the past, which arguably without Bovec would not be in need of European funding, or a position from which to seek it.
Further information and source material:
Primorske Novice: http://www.primorske.si/primorska/goriska/v-poletno-zimski-center-kanin-bi-vlozili-52-milijo
STA News Agency: https://english.sta.si/2604004/kanin-ski-resort-to-get-a-eur-50m-overhaul